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Women Leaders I Admire

Remember one of my previous posts, specifically regarding 5 Malaysian Entrepreneurs that I admire and a lesson I learnt from each of them? You may say, this article is somewhat like a sequel from the previous one. But then, this time, I’ll be narrowing down the scope by gender which is women or female, but going into a larger scope by location which is Asia. It’s regarding top women leaders that I admire. When I first thought of composing this article, I thought it was going to be easy. And with the idea to make it interesting, I’ve decided to make a twist for my random thought, by focusing about women entrepreneurs in Asia. Later on, it become difficult for me. Nevertheless, with everything that I have in my hand, here it goes, about top women leaders in Asia that I find inspiring. Firstly, about our very own Marina Mahathir, who is a writer, women’s rights, HIV/AIDS activist and TV producer. She served as the President of the Malaysian AIDS Council for 12 years from since 1993 until 2005. In addition Marina has served on many regional and international HIV/AIDS bodies including the AIDS Society of Asia and the Pacific (ASAP), UNAIDS and also the Asia Pacific Leadership Forum on HIV and Development (APLF). She is currently a member of the Board of Sisters in Islam. Marina also writes a fortnightly column on social issues in a local English-language daily, as well as online. Between 2001 and 2009, she produced an award-winning TV programme for young women which is known as ‘3R-Respect, Relax and Respond’. On top of that, she also writes and speaks regularly on women’s issues particularly where it relates to Islam, gender and HIV/AIDS. She maintains a  blog where she writes about her rantings.


Secondly, is Singapore’s Grace Chng. She is the Editor of Digital Life at the Singapore Straits Times. She closely follows information and communications technology in Singapore, Silicon Valley and the world as well. Her interests are in the evolution of the tech industry, start-ups, web analytics, technopreneurs, business technologies and sexy gadgets. Based on her biography, her career in journalism began more than two decades ago and she has been following the movers and shakers of the industry such as Apple, HP, Cisco, Nokia, IBM, Creative Technologies and ST Electronics. Don’t be shocked, but Grace is one of the graduates of our very own University of Science, in Penang. And she also has an MBA from the National University of Singapore. Feel challenged, geeks?


Next, is Jannie Chan Siew Lee, who is the Executive Vice Chairman of The Hour Glass, which is a leading contemporary specialist watch retailer in the Asia Pacific region. Stating in 1979, The Hour Glass Group has developed a regional network of 24 boutiques strategically located in prime shopping belts in Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. Jannie also was a member of the Women’s Leadership Initiative Board at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. In the previous years, she was appointed as the first chairman for the Commonwealth Business Women Leaders Network and also as one of 50 leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World in Paris, which made her became as the first woman president of the ASEAN Business Forum and the Singapore Retailers Association. In 2003, she was conferred the Darjah Sultan Ahmad Shah Pahang (DSAP) which carries the title Dato’. And recently, in August 2009, she was crowned as the 1st Women to win the Enterprise Asia’s APEA Woman Entrepreneur of The Year Award. In addition to Jannie’s many achievements, she established Save Our Planet Investments, a holding company with businesses in lifestyle, forestry, and bio-medical industries focused on Global Wellness. Jannie was born in Ipoh, Perak, and she holds a Bachelor of Science in Physiology and Masters of Science in Pharmacology from Monash University in Melbourne.


Lastly, is Shireen Ann Zaharah Muhiudeen who is the Managing Director/Principal Fund Manager at Corston-Smith Asset Management. Shireen founded Corston-Smith Asset Management back in 2004. Under her stewardship, Corston-Smith is now a partner of British Telecom Pension Scheme (BTPS), which today owns 30% of Corston-Smith Malaysia. Shireen brings to her extensive current ASEAN client portfolio more than 23 years of focused fund management experience, which she honed as chief executive of the Malaysian arm of insurance giant AIG Investment Corporation from 1991 till 2003. Of special interest to her are issues of good corporate governance and transparency, Corston- Smith nurtures and nudges all companies it invests in towards such best practices. Today, Corston-Smith is Malaysia’s only asset manager admitted as a signatory to the United Nations Principles of Responsible Investing (UNPRI) and Shireen has successfully drawn international investors to Malaysia by launching the ASEAN Corporate Governance Fund back in 2008 and the ASEAN Shariah Corporate Governance Fund in 2009. To drum the importance of CSR further, Shireen and her Corston-Smith colleagues have written and published a free handbook for young people entering the workforce on the nuts and bolts of personal finance, titled ‘Learn to Make Sense of Your Money – What They Don’t Tell You When You First Start Work’, which is available in English and Bahasa Malaysia. Besides having her own monthly column, ‘Governance Matters’, in Malaysia’s biggest- selling daily – The Star, the avid advocate of equal gender representation in boardrooms is regularly sought after for her views by global broadcasters such as Bloomberg and CNBC. An equally avid sportswoman, Shireen also represented Malaysia in the Junior Wimbledon tennis championships back in 1981 and has served on the board of Tourism Malaysia, and Malaysia’s Sports Advisory Council.

I know, it has been pretty long for you to read, like a ‘wall of text’ – a famously used term among casual formers on the Net. To sum it all, if you really make fine searches on the Internet, you’ll stumble upon more (un)discovered top-notch  women entrepreneurs and leaders  in Asia at-par with those mentioned above. On personal thoughts, I’m proud to see women nowadays sky rocketed very high at par with the men in whatever they’re doing. And sometimes, I hate to say, better than the men as well. For any woman or girl who’ve managed to read this until the end, I just want to say that I love to see a woman or a girl to go out and grab the world by the lapels as life is a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass to succeed.